Mad Skills

Don’t fret. The rum is safe. Things were not always thus. Try and focus and the important part here: I just proved how easy it is to become a professional at hacky sack! This discovery was made during a decidedly un-officer like display after returning from the store with one of my three monthly rations of liquor. My hands were full with a case of mixers in one and in the other a stretched to capacity plastic bag containing some of life’s necessities like coffee, energy drinks, bread, and of course, rum. Twenty feet from any form of soft ground, the bag gave way. What followed was an undignified attempt at not smashing one unit of a limited supply of rum. Watch this graphic reenactment but imagine it’s an old guy in uniform foot juggling a 750-milliliter bottle away from a concrete parking lot and you’ll have a pretty good idea.

Dear Army Sock Maker

Dear Army sock maker,
You suck. Find a new line of work. Preferably one that does not require the matching of length or color on anything under the sun. I pulled out eleven different socks this morning. I have no clue as to where the twelfth might have absconded. Though I did notice new coat hangers in my closet I have no recollection of buying. This may confirm the theory that socks are indeed the larval form of wire coat hangers. Given enough incubation time in a drier, they hatch and migrate under the cover of darkness to their point of origin to guard the other larvae. These eleven unhatched coat hangers are from a two different packs of size large, allegedly olive drab socks. Of these eleven, there were ten different sizes and 47.3 varying shades of a drab that were most assuredly not olive. Any olive that shade is unfit for human consumption. Some socks had entire panels turned almost tan and the panel for the top of the foot on one sock was rust colored. I refuse to relinquish them though as I insist upon get my money’s worth out of them.

Sincerely,
Me

P.S.

Your elastic vendor is ripping you off too and may be slipping spaghetti noodles into your purchases. Serves you right.

Convos with Doc

Being unaccompanied overseas is occasionally a double-edged blade. On the one hand, it sucks because my family isn’t here. On the other hand, family not being able to reach across 4,000 miles and react violently to numerous forms of self-entertainment has it perks. I’ve always been one to make the best of a situation, so I often opt to live dangerously. The urge to risk the ire of loved ones often becomes more acute when, as I am now, on the verge of recovering from whatever sickness threatens my survival. Maybe it’s a misguided sense of overconfidence having brushed so close with death and emerging unscathed. I’m telling y’all, this bout of anthrax-flu-pox was rough.

The first day of feeling better, I was presented with yet another form to fill out. Contrary to popular belief, the Army does not march on its stomach. It careens down a greased slope on a torrent of documentation despite its decade-plus old claim to be going digital. Seriously. Every paper form eliminated for a digital analog is replaced by and requires for submission: at least two locally generated paper forms, a folder, a tracking form (also paper), and the printed version of the digital form because apparently we all hate digital signatures. However, this affords for some interesting methods by which one can entertain themselves if one were willing to risk hiding the devil in the details.

The Platoon Sergeant walked in and handed me a formerly digital form so that I could fill it out manually. The idea was that once they are all collected for the entire company, they could be scanned and sent to a certain individual’s email. Makes perfect sense. But I was feeling better and feeling playful. For those not familiar, there are these abhorrent little clubs in the Army that are mandatory for one’s spouse to join, or the service member must attend the little get togethers designed to equip spouses with the tools for survival in the absence of service member. The dreaded FRG, or Family Readiness Group. They are often chaired by the Commander’s spouses unless said spouse is in the service as well. Though in retrospect, I know a male Master Sergeant who would have been a stellar FRG leader and there would be no tolerance of the ludicrous complaints or requests often witnessed. Imagine an angry, opinionated, scowling white version of Michael Clarke Duncan and you’ll have a pretty good idea why.

Anyway, the form had all the standard data. Name, Rank, Social, contact data for spouse, etc. etc. There was also a block for spouse’s native language. If you aren’t aware, my wife is a psychologist which becomes important in a minute. She’d had to teach the night prior on her side of the planet and I’d been up early on mine. This meant that she would be sleeping in and I would be going to bed early which disrupts the timeline for our daily video chats. So, I needed to send her a message to let her know I was thinking of her. I’m attentive like that. And a great communicator.

“Hi, love. If the FRG leader contacts you, just know that it was me entertaining myself.”

Before I fell asleep, she’d already awakened.

“What”? That question keeps getting asked around me.

“I don’t think they read those forms anyway,” I assured her.

“I swear if you tried to get me into anything…”

“Noooope!” I beamed. “Just an interesting choice for the spouse’s native language section.”

“Just tell me which Rosetta Stone program to buy.”

“That’s the beauty of it! You are already a doctor in the lingo!”

“You didn’t say woman-speak.”

“Of course not,” I was a little hurt right there. “How insensitive do you think I am? I said Psychobabble.”

She then launched a few unflattering terms of what is most certainly not what one might expect in a shrink’s vernacular. “You just told your Commander’s wife that I’m an idiot!”

“You do know I’m the English major, right?”

“What?”

“You don’t get to analyze words. That’s my job. You’re a shrink.”

No response. Sometimes you have to draw academics in using their own language.

“So, unless you want to discuss psychoanalytic literary theory….” I began. “Or linguistics and word origin, it seems your response was too focused on the babble part rather than the psycho part your vehemence might suggest.”

Did I fail to mention that despite being an English major, I am not the great communicator I once suspected?

*Insert blinking, non-responsive cursor here.

Plan B: “But I’m sick. A shrink wouldn’t treat a patient this way.”

“LOL,” She replied.

A line from Simon and Garfunkel’s Cecilia ran through my head. Jubilation! She loves me again! I fall on the floor and I’m laughing!

In Extremis

It happens every year. The Army mandated flu vaccine. I despise it more than I despise the anthrax and small pox vaccines. These are pretty much my top three most hated injections. This year was something of an anomaly in that I got all three of these. The trifecta of doom. Anthrax and flu happened on the same day. Once again I am left questioning the safety of combining diseases within my person and since the flu shot always gives me the flu, I had no way of really knowing if I was displaying anthrax symptoms or just flu symptoms.

As per my standard operating procedures, I filled out the pre-injection questionnaire with the claim that I do in fact experience a serious reaction to the flu shot.

“What kind of reaction do you have to the vaccine, Chief?” The medic asked.

“I get the flu.”

“That doesn’t count, Sir. Besides, it’s an inactive form of the virus. It can’t make you sick.” She used the same line of logic offered by the last twelve medics to give me a shot twenty-four hours before I get the flu.

“Look,” I began. “If I don’t get the shot, I have a 50/50 chance at not getting sick. With the shot, I get sick 100% of the time. Just let me take my chances.”

“Sir. This cannot make you sick.”

“So why do pregnant people, people with babies, and people with elderly at home get told not to take the shot? It’s right there on your questionnaire.” I needed to try a different tack.

“Because those people are more susceptible to the flu and we can’t risk injected people around those high-risk ones, Chief.”

“And you don’t see a flaw in this logic, do you?” I asked.

“Sir?”

“Just get it over with.” I caved.

It may be psychosomatic, but I always experience headaches shortly after this shot. I was looking for that reaction as I put my uniform top back on.

“Chief, you’re due for anthrax as well.”

“You can’t be serious. Is that even safe? You just gave me the flu.” I pulled my top back off and offered the same arm.

“Other arm, Sir.” The next medic said.

“But I got small pox in that arm.”

“When?” He began to put the syringe down.

“Four months ago.”

He picked it back up.

“Wait!” I balked. “You are going to inject one cow disease into the site of another cow disease? You medics are worse than the Russians who weaponized these cow diseases.”

So here I sit. In Korea with the flu, the muscle pain that accompanies the anthrax shot, and a bio-hazard bag of small pox band-aids under my sink that I’m afraid to turn in because the scab went missing. Hopefully down the shower drain, but I’ve already covered that in a previous post. I’m a walking biological weapon or self incubating petri dish at this point. I’m pretty sure Monty Python’s boys would gladly hurl my carcass over the castle walls at the French…

Digital Safari with Norman Bates and Gunga Din

It’s been over a month since I’ve put any new material up here. I’ll not bore you with the mundane aspects hindering my posts. School, work, etc. One source of hindrance worth noting though is my computer itself. It started with access to my blog. I’d go to open it up and just get an alternating indication of the site loading then not loading. I really didn’t think much of it at the time. Maybe WordPress was doing scheduled maintenance or something? After a week, I gave up that theory. I was being incrementally locked out of sites and programs at such a slow pace that one could liken it to the whole boiling a frog thing where you put it in room temperature water and gradually raise the temperature. This brings up two questions. 1. Has this been proven? And 2. What kind of person even wants to prove something like this? That whole topic could be a standalone blog entry.

The next thing I knew, the water was boiling and I didn’t react like the frog. I flipped out. My final project for school was due in two days and I no longer had access to any Office program or any word processor. Being technologically challenged, I resorted to tech support and bemoaned the inoperability of Word. I spent the next seven hours on live chat with some friendly gentlemen from India who demonstrated next to nothing in the way of a sense of humor. Please bear in mind that there is no way I can possibly portray in writing the wonderful accent of a native Hindi speaker conversing in English. So, you’ll have to work that out for yourself.

The first to come to my aid was a young man who told me his name was Gunga Din. I promise you that one of us is not exercising the spirit of full disclosure and I am not that one. I am fairly certain this was something like a stage name used to protect call center workers from irate customers. Seeking some harmless entertainment after hours a fruitless work on restoring program function, I had to address the name.

“So you’re a fan of Kipling then?” I asked.

“No, Sir,” Gunga began. “I can assure you that I have no Idea to what you are referring. I prefer John Grisham novels.”

“Really, Gunga? We were getting on so well, you and I.”

“What?” He asked in a tone of feigned innocence.

“Trust, Gunga. Trust. You hope I will trust you to fix my computer. You hope I will trust you to remote into my computer. It’s a two-way streak, Gunga.”

“What?” Maybe it was perplexation rather than an attempt at guile. These accents are disarming.

“How can I stay mad at you, Gunga?”

“What?”

“Never mind.”

“Just reinstall and restart now and I assure you it will work.”

“Your assurances carry no weight with me any longer,” I told him.

I was right not to trust him. Same problem. I made contact again. This time I was greeted cheerfully by another gentleman from India named Norman. As it turns out, Norman was Gunga’s supervisor and was “Intimately familiar with your problem today, Sir. I tell you.”

“Well, Norman. Gunga was quite helpful but the problem is unresolved.”

“May I have the product activation key so we can get started?”

“We are already getting off on the wrong foot here, Norman.”

“What?” The call center is apparently filled with perplexed people.

“Trust, Norman. I’m talking about trust.”

“I can assure you that I don’t understand your meaning, Sir.” They are also very full of reassuring people. I like that. Who doesn’t?

“It’s fine, Norman,” I assured him in turn. I like to give back to the giving. “The intimately familiar would know that the product was bought on-line. There is no key, Norman.”

“I see,” He said as one might expect from a philosopher or psychoanalyst. “That is not a problem, Sir. I tell you. We shall get you fixed straightaway.”

It wasn’t long before I felt the need to entertain myself again and questions about weather and culture were first received skeptically, then dismissed. I went back to names.

“Norman, I know you guys at the call center can’t tell your real names and you choose the name for the job. Gunga claimed no knowledge of Kipling but then told me he preferred a different author. So, I have to ask. How’s the hotel business?”

“I’m sorry?”

Oh. My. God. Did I just commit unintended insult?

“As in the Bates Motel? It was a Hitchcock reference. I did not mean to imply you were in the hotel business.”

“I do not understand your meaning, Sir. I tell you.”

“That probably for the best, Norman.”

So, long story short. Neither the unfazed Norman not Bates, nor the heroic efforts of Gunga Din could return my word processor to functionality. I ended up doing a restore to factory settings and having my IP address and phone number blocked in India. Forgive my absence, y’all. My digital safari is over.